Health Risk in Indonesian Foods from Street Vendors

by Aref Purnomo

In this globalization era there are still many countries that do not provide equal opportunity for their citizen to obtain sufficient level of education. Indonesia is one of the countries, that unfortunately up to now still has not been successful in making education equally available to all the citizens. Since, education in Indonesia is expensive; in general children who can afford to go to school are children who come from privileged family which is accounted for only 25% of the total citizens. The rest of the 75% of the citizens can only afford to send their children to the elementary school or can not afford it at all. As a result, there are many people with minimum background of education try to make a living by selling non food grade products. For example, many street vendors use formalin in making tofu (is a kind of bean curd from soybeans) and noodles. The reason why they use formalin is just so that they can extend the shelf life longer rather than using legal forms of preservative. They hope that they can save unsold products for weeks and so they can earn more money. Formalin is a dangerous substance that is commonly used to preserve dead body, as well as, used as a substance in cosmetics. The use of formalin is very dangerous to human bodies and I am going to give some tips on how to differentiate between tofu and noodles that contain formalin Vs tofu and noodles that do not contain formalin.
Tofu
Tofu is one kind of food that is very popular in Indonesia because not only it is cheap, but it also contains a lot of nutrition, particularly protein. In general, good quality tofu has soft texture, can break easily if it pressed downward and lasts only for two days. In addition, fresh tofu that does not contain formalin also smells nice like soybean. On the other hand, tofu with formalin has a hard texture, but not solid. It has a rebounding ability if it is pressed downward. Tofu that contains formalin will stay fresh like new even though it placed in a room temperature condition for three days. If you place the formalin contained tofu inside the refrigerator, it can last for 15 days. Moreover, tofu that contains formalin also has unpleasant smell like medicine.
Noodle
Noodles are also widely consumed by Indonesians because it is in expensive and it does not take to much time to prepare it. Many Indonesians like to cook noodles just by boiling it and adding some veggies and eggs. Noodles which contain formalin can last up to two days if it placed in a room temperature condition. If it placed in a refrigerator, noodles that contain formalin can even last up to 15 days. Next, noodles that contain formalin also are less sticky compare to the good quality noodles. In addition, these noodles also look shinier and have pungent medicine smell.

In conclusion, it is very important not to consume any kind of food that contains formalin. The reason is because formalin can react chemically with many substances in human body’s cells. This chemical reaction will cause cell destruction resulting in toxicity in the body. The accumulation of this in toxicity can then spread cancer in a human body. I suggest that you should carefully examine the type of tofu and noodles that you are going to eat especially if you go to Indonesia. Until the Indonesian government can provide education equally to all of the Indonesian citizens, this problem will still exist for many years to come.

Resources:
1.http://www.bimcbali.com/news.asp?n=58&t=Formalin-in-Food.html
2.http://database.deptan.go.id/saims-indonesia/index.php?files=DetailTechnologies&id=52

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